With just over a month left until the election and the Republican nominee, President Trump, is infected with coronavirus, which has taken over 209,000 American lives. Trump’s age and weight, coupled with his unhealthy life-style and eating habits, put him in the highest risk category, which raises one key question: what happens if the President and Republican nominee dies before the election?
The 25th Amendment makes it very clear what happens if the serving President is unable to serve, through illness or death. The power gets transferred to the Vice-President, Mike Pence in this case, until the President gains back the ability to serve again.
In the highly unlikely scenario that the Vice-President also dies, the Constitution gives Congress the ability to determine what should happen next. The most recent statute, the Presidential Succession Act, says the Speaker of the House is next in line – Nancy Pelosi – and then the succession is as follows: president pro tempore of the Senate – Charles E. Grassley, and then Secretary of State – Mike Pompeo.
What happens if Trump can no longer run?
In this situation, things are not as clear. First, the Republican National Committee would have to nominate somebody new as their candidate, which would involve the Chair of the RNC, Ronna McDaniel, as well as the 168 national members, 3 from every state and territory. However, this would become very messy very quickly, seeing how close we are to this election. Many states have already started mailing and accepting ballots, and some have also started in-person voting, so the name of a new candidate would be very hard to print on ballots in time for the election. One solution would be to delay the election, which only the Congress has the power to do, but it is highly unlikely that they would do that.
In this situation, states would have to individually decide how they want to proceed, and since this situation is unprecedented, most states do not have any rules for this circumstance. It is important to note that American’s are not actually voting for a candidate, but instead are voting for electors, who then decide which candidate they back. If one of the candidates is no longer alive, the electors would have to back somebody else up as President. Is it unclear who these electors would support, but most would stick to their party. The most likely person in this case to become president would be their running mate.
How serious is Trump’s condition?
President Trump sought to dispel any perception of weakness on Sunday with a surprise outing from his hospital bed to greet supporters even as his doctors acknowledged two alarming episodes they had previously not disclosed.
Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped twice in the two days after he was diagnosed with the coronavirus, requiring medical intervention, and he had been put on steroids – both suggesting that his condition was more serious than previously revealed.
There are conflicting reports from Washington about how sick Trump actually is, and much will depend on what happens in the next few days.